Why MVPs Are a Terrible Idea

July 20, 2018
Andreas Randow
Managing Partner

Business architecture and development. Technology strategies and solutions. Makes awesome playlists.

Why MVPs Are (Mostly) a Terrible Idea

Timing is everything. Deep down, we all know this--or at least we claim we do. But then why do so many of us take the most time-consuming approach to bringing a product to market?

MVPs Are a Time-Suck

“Never confuse motion with action.” - Ernest Hemingway

Think about what's involved in an MVP approach. You study a market, then develop a bare-bones solution for this market, as fast as you can. You release your bare-bones product (often while apologizing for its skimpy condition), gather feedback, make adjustments, release the next product version, gather more feedback, and compile all of your findings into a pitch for funding to finally make the complete solution you intended to deliver in the first place.

In the meantime, you've publicized your concept. If your MVP gained significant market validation, you've effectively proven there's an opportunity for competitors to claim market share. So while you're busy shopping your pitch to investors, there's a very good chance that someone else--perhaps a larger business with more resources--will swoop in and dominate your market.

MVPs Only Prioritize Product

Let's take a more optimistic view, and assume that the market loves your MVP, you have enough funding, and there aren't any significant competitors on the horizon. So what happens next? There's more demand for everything--not just your product. More customer support. More supply chain management. More operational infrastructure and logistics management. More overhead costs. While you were analyzing feedback from early adopters and tinkering with your product's features, were you also considering what early success would do to the rest of your business?

This is truly where most businesses fail. Bad ideas won't necessarily ruin a company, but early success will, if the business is not prepared to grow at the pace the market demands. Even if a company is able to survive being unprepared for early success, it will pay dearly for its lack of preparedness: negative press, disgruntled customers, potentially damaged relationships with distributors, and the additional stress of needing to solve for growth while continuing to deliver product to the market.

MVPs Don't Scale

“Nothing is more dangerous than an idea when it is the only one you have.” - Emile Chartier

While it's certainly possible to grow an MVP, it's nearly impossible to bring one to scale. There are just too many potential bottlenecks to address if a business spends the majority of its time re-defining and re-developing product versions. And to beat the competition, you need to gain--and hold onto--market share before anybody else does.

If you're going to have to consider the big picture eventually, why not do it from the start? A delightful product is an excellent asset, but it does not make a functioning business. The founders of Proper Orange believe in taking a holistic view of a business, in which the product is only one component of a complex system that needs to work efficiently as one coordinated organism. Considering all parts of a business, from product to operations to marketing and sales, as well as how the parts fit together in the business model and general strategy, ensures sustainable, coordinated capacity through all phases of growth.

So fall out of love with your MVP. Take a good look at the rest of your business. Then you can truly plan for scale.